Educating Adults

Something happened at work the other day that distressed me. I work with 2 girls, F, age 8, and L, age 4. Their grandfather came to visit over the weekend, and when I arrived Monday morning, DB was just leaving to drive Grandpa to the airport. As DB was leaving, he said, "Come on girls, give Grandpa a kiss goodbye." F, the 8 yr old, shuffled up to Grandpa, gave him a peck, and backed away. She looked really uncomfortable. L, the 4 yr old, refused to give Grandpa a kiss. She looked totally freaked. The dad grabbed her arm, and said,"You are making Grandpa sad. You don't want to make him sad, do you? Go give him a kiss." L started to cry, DB got mad, and he and Grandpa left.

Now, I realize in the past, we were all expected to hug or kiss our relatives. But in this day of child molesters and teens being pressured into sex, this is no longer appropriate. This scene looked to me like a father forcing his daughters to perform a physical act of affection that they were clearly uncomfortable with. I really feel that this is not ok. If you tell a 4 yr old to kiss someone to avoid hurting their feelings, this could mean a 14 yr old who gives in easily when a teenage boy pressures her to go too far. She might not want to hurt his feelings, right?? The 8 yr old was already giving in, kissing Grandpa just to avoid a negative reaction. We all know that when teenage boys want sex and can't have it, the reaction is almost always negative. How is she going to see that? Will she give in just to avoid a scene?

This got me thinking of all the times moms have told their kids to give me a hug goodbye. I always say to them, "you can have a hug if you want, but you don't have to." I would never want a child to hug me because it is expected, and I would absolutely hate to think they are forced into it. Are these relatives really ok with that? Do they really want a kiss from a child who was forced to do it? That seems sick.

I feel that this is really important to teach children to respect their own bodies, especially girls. We need to tell them that hugs and kisses, as well as other physical acts, need to ALWAYS be their decision and no one else's. Yes, perhaps some older relatives will be insulted, but sorry, the well-being of the children is way more important. Forcing a child to kiss someone against their will is doing irreparable damage to them. Yet this seems to still be happening all over the place. I even had a friend of mine say, "I make them kiss Aunt L because if they didn't, I would never hear the end of it from her!" So this mom is putting her own inability to deal with difficult relatives on her kids. She would rather damage their self esteem than listen to an aunt bitching? I was horrified.

I don't know if I can actually mention this to any parents, employers or otherwise. Is there any way to bring up this perspective without being insulting? If I worded it like this post, parents would think I am accusing them of child abuse, and I would most likely be out of the kids lives. I think that some parents aren't thinking of this in todays terms, they are just remembering when they were kids, this is how it was. Is there any way to educate them without insulting them? - Anonymous


A New York Nanny said...

I think your over reacting. I was told to give relatives hugs and kisses when I was little, and I still had enough sense to say no to peer presure and teenage sex.

Give the kids more credit. Not every single thing leads to bad decisions or choices later on in life.

Yes, in some cases where the child has been abused I can understand there may be issues, but the girls were probably just shy around this relative they don't see very often. ( I'm assuming they don't see grandpa often, as he flew in from somewhere.)

I wouldn't bring it up as long as you don't see signs of abuse. Asking them to give a relative a hug or kiss, isn't going to lead to teenage pregnancy. Again, give the kids more credit.

been there said...

New York Nanny, I disagree. I think OP brings up a good point. Why should kids be forced to show affection? It is a feeling that should come natural. If a person doesn't want to be touched, those boundaries should be respected. How OP can approach the parents about this would definitely be difficult though.

You wrote an excellent post, OP. I would just keep it simple. Leave all of the sexual connotations out of it so that they don't get offended. Tell them they should teach their children boundaries so that they won't be taken advantage of.

Zarine said...

I agree that kids shouldn't be forced to show affection, example if a child is asked to hug another child after arguing or similar.

I don't see this situation as disturbing though.

MissMannah said...

OP, I completely agree with you and yes I agree it is disturbing. As I've said several times on here, I believe in respecting children. It is disrespectful to force a child to hug or kiss someone. Would you do it to an adult? Heck no, so why do it to a child? I want to raise my children so they understand they are in control of their bodies, not anybody else, not even me.

Unfortunately I don't think you can say anything to the parents about this one. It is their right to raise their children however they want, even if we totally disagree with it.

oceanblue said...

OK I appreciate Op's sentiment and her desire to protect kids and you make some valid points,but
Who is to say they aren't teaching boundaries.
Just because the girls weren't eager to hug grandpa doesn't mean he was abusing them. I can remember being scared of hugging my grandparents when I was little not because I was abused by then, but thanks to my dad's job we saw them rarely and I thought their wrinkly skin looked weird. There are also cultural issues that come into play here possibly and if that's the case you are fighting an uphill battle.
If you insist on speaking to dad about the situation I suggest you approach it as wanting to know how to discuss safety and boundaries with kids and not say anything about GPA abusing the girls unless you think he is otherwise this will blow up in your face

me said...

How about the flip side teaching kids to respect others boundaries including adults. Maybe I don't want you to sit on my lap, or give me a hug,or give a piggy back hands off all around

Susannah said...

Right on op!
I also think we shouldn't force pleases, thank your or apologies or sharing. We're not required to as adults so why should we force children to do these things?

katydid said...

I'm not sure how to word this so don't' hate me,but if someone wants to rape or molest you they are going to do so no matter what you say. I wouldn't want a child thinking it was their fault they were molested because they wanted to give auntie a kiss. Although I agree with you that teaching boundaries is important,I also agree it works both ways as far as boundaries go. I don't know you have to find balance you can go too far either way

katydid said...

Op I wouldn't confront your employers over this unless you feel actual abuse is going on. When you have children you can raise them as you see fit

SRO said...

I don't think OP was suggesting that anyone is abusing these kids, just that it can be damaging to kids to be forced to show affection. I totally agree! My husband and I took a workshop about how to prevent kids from being targets of sexual predators, and the number one thing they told us was to make sure that kids feel in control of their own bodies. Forced affection is a big no-no. Never refuse a request for a hug or kiss from a child, but make it clear that it is THEIR CHOICE.

Modern Momma said...

They're teaching the children to ignore their instincts and their inner voice. Children should be forced to say "thank you" but never forced to hug or kiss, ever.

Gail said...

The problem I have with this philosophy is that in an underhanded way it implies that children want to be molested. And implies that affection and molestation are one in the same.
And it doesn't prevent it from happening .
The grandpa or whomever else is going to molest the kids if he wants to no matter if the kids willing give him a hug or not so your kids could still be molested and have no social skills if it's not taught young it is never learned never.

1234 said...

I think this new wave of abuse prevention will go the way of " bad touch" in the 80s and " stranger danger" in the 90s.
They all sound great but the truth is the very sad is child abuse will never go away- never unless we develop some sort of prenatal genetic screening to weed out abusers and never let them be born

Susannah said...

But why force a thank you or sharing etc? Especially if it's not genuine. It's a nice idea but just like forced affection, always listening to adults and obeying is dated and not required for real world survival.

absalah said...

too bad for grandpa if he dies before his grandkids decide to give him a hug
You can never be to careful.

RBTC said...

i am placed in positions where the parents say to the kids to hug me and the kids never get scared but in ANY case where they look even a little uncomfortable i have several responses -- all in a saccharine sweet sing song voice

" It's OK to be caustious ! good job ! "


" how about high five?" the high five response is SO popular it's almost a auto-pilot response and it works

" it's ok to be nancy reagan!!" when the parents look funny i say "it's ok to just say no ! ha ha !"

or -- I blow THEM a kiss - indirectly put the kiss in their mom's hand and then get her to throw it to them

maybe you can KID around and diffuse anything in the future

and also - as i believe you do - tell the little girls later that they CAN say no if they want - they are lucky to have you to look out for them!!

Modern Momma said...

I force my child to say thank you because thats what I expect out of them, whether they are thankful or not is a moot point for me. I teach them to say thank you to the point where it becomes second nature. I expect my children to always say thank you. And they do. And I do and I am adult. Good manners have to be taught. Children dont know to say thank you unless they are taught to.

RBTC said...

in my business we regularly give children treats etc at the behest of their parents and many parents use the treat as a lesson to have the kids say thank you

and the parents expect us to say "you're welcome !"

and frequently they will give the child a tip to give us for the toy/treat and you better believe the parents expect us to say "thank you"

please,thank you,excuse me, your're welcome are all very important things for all of us no matter our age to use, it's not the same thing as invading another person's body space imo

Bethany said...

I'm middle of the road with this. I have no problem teaching kids to hug and kiss relatives and close friends for me it's partially cultural.

But I don't see myself forcing a kid to do so especially when they are visibly upset by it.

Dad may have had more success if he had hugged his father first.

The other sides to it are you going to scold your kids for saying they don't like grandma's kisses or I don't want grandma to kiss me?

Are you going to teach them they don't have the right to another person? Example it doesn't make sense to tell them they don't have to hug auntie, but it's perfectly okay for them to jump in whomever's lap. Or to get upset when one of the kids at school doesn't want to hold hands with your kid and you going running to the teacher.

For the orginal poster I don't think it is your place to speak to the father . It's a parenting choice and as nannies we don't get to make that call.

talesfromthe(nanny)hood said...

Oy. Teaching children that they have control over who touches their bodies and can say "No" to requests for physical contact is a way to empower kids (accompanied by parents teaching that the child can ALWAYS come to them and tell them anything) so that IF someone does something inappropriate the child will have learned that they own their bodies and do not need to allow people to force physical contact on them.

"Bad touch" was too ambiguous. "Stranger Danger" was simply bogus, since the vast majority of sexual abusers are people trusted by the children and their families.

I've had the discussion casually with employers when their kids were toddlers: "Hey, you know how sometimes Jordan doesn't want to hug Granny? I think we might want to help Granny understand that it's OK for Jordan to offer some other way of saying hi, like giving a high-five or blowing a kiss. I think it's important to teach Jordan that no one has the right to touch her if she doesn't want to be touched, don't you?"

And as for saying please/thank you/etc., polite society has rules, and I teach my charges to use good manners. They may not "get it" until they are 3 or so, but they can certainly follow my lead and respond politely when prompted. Toddlers are uncivilized beings, and not even trying to teach them good manners is flat out foolish and lazy.

Anonymous said...

I do not think the father did anything wrong though and if I bring it up to the parents, be prepared to be fired or there to be ackwardness after. Those are his children and you are not entitled to tell him how to raise them. As for saying please and thank you, it is a good thing for children to have manners. It is much better to have well mannered children then wild out of control, entitled brats that are running around right now. Just my two cents.

--Southern Nanny

Scttygrrl said...

The issue is that children are entitled to their own feelings and should not be forced into physical contact that is uncomfortable. I was raised inthe 50's when, for the most part, it seemed that adults' wishes trumped all. Nothing to do with abuse, just lack of respect for personal space. I never pushed my daughter to kiss and hug relatives.

Kathy said...

I see no relation to this and sexual intimidation by males.

I don't think it is mean of this parent to ask his daughters to express affection toward their grandfather. In this day + age of spoiled children, what is wrong w/teaching some good old-fashioned manners for once? Just because these girls are told to do something they do not want to do does not mean they are being mistreated by any means. Being told to do something one doesn't want to do is so typical at this age. As children, how many times did our parents force us to do things we didn't want to? Tons, I say.

Just because they are forced to display affection for a relative does not mean they will allow themselves to be treated bad in a sexual manner in the future.

I strongly advise you to keep your thoughts and feeling about this under wraps. If you do give your two cents worth, expect to be fired for crossing boundary lines that you have no business crossing.

been there said...

talesfromthe(nanny)hood, I just had to say: EXCELLENT comment!

oh well said...

I don't quite like what the dad did here. Saying "You are making Grandpa sad. You don't want to make him sad, do you?" is emotional blackmail.
Now, I am all for manners and I don't think there is anything wrong with asking a child to give a peck to their relatives, but this should be treated as a formal gesture. "Do it because I ask you to" is all that should be said, if parents want to insist on it. Grandpa is a grown man. He will not get upset because a four-year-old balks at kissing him. Saying otherwise is wrong, and definitely not good parenting.

Sweet Pea said...

Politeness is not a valid justification for forcing a child to be affectionate against their will.

You can have the child look at the adult and speak in a loud enough voice and say a simple, "thank you" for the visit. That would teach politeness without teaching the child to ignore their instincts that are telling them not to touch someone. We have an extremely polite toddler and we have never forced him to hug, kiss or touch another.

I do not understand why people use what their generation survived as motivation for continuing a behavior that could be improved upon. Many people survived not wearing seat belts. That is not to say that we shouldn't have learned and evolved from our past behavior.

Forcing a toddler to do something they don't want to do, such as brushing their teeth does not have the same effect on a child as forcing them to be affectionate. Teaching them to brush their teeth does not teach them to suppress their instincts, the way forcing them to touch someone does.

Sweet Pea said...

Saying, "You are making Grandpa sad. You don't want to make him sad, do you? Go give him a kiss" is teaching the child to be co-dependent. No child is responsible for an adults feelings. That is a huge burden for a child to carry.

UmassSlytherin said...

I agree with OP. My child has a lot of social issues with her autism and I would never force her to hug or kiss anyone. Everyone in our family has been patient with these issues, and she is now a loving, affectionate 6 year old. I think if we had forced her to be affectionate with people when she was younger, she would not be where she is now.

Let kids show affection when they feel it however they want to. I liked OP's article. I doubt the Dad in the story or the grandpa means any harm. But OP's point is well taken.

nannyfromtheblock said...

I agree with OP.

I also disagree with people at that teach violence or a physical response is always wrong.

Sometimes it is important to fight back and be physical for self protection. I think too many people are hesitate to do so because it's so ingrained that violence is wrong.

But also agree with others, that say it really isn't you place to tell the father how to raise his kids.

Caroline said...

Ok so, my parents were ahead of the times. They never tought my siblings and I "bad touch" or "stranger danger", they never made us hug or kiss anyone all that. They made it clear my body was my own etc.

I was raped at 10 by a neighbor.

I new my body was my own and all that still didn't make me feel better about what happened then or now.

I don't have kids and I don't know that I will.

But there is absolutely no sure fire way to protect your kids from evil.

Amy said...

What about diaper changes, and baths.

Should we give up on those because the child doesn't want to be touched?

After all an abuser might use those tasks as an opportunity to abuse.

enough already said...

We probably shouldn't hug and kiss babies. After all some of them don't like them or they may not be able to tell us they don't like it.

I don't know about you but I don't want to disrespect the rights of a baby.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

So, amy and enough already, do you force diaper changes/baths/hugs/kisses on infants who are resistant while mocking them for being powerless to do anything but cry and scream?

Or do you sympathize with them (in the diapering/bathing arena) and tell them "This must be done I can tell you're mad about it, and I am so sorry. You have to be changed/bathed, but we will go as fast as possible and be done soon." or even, in the case of non-emergency situations, just let it go for a minute and then try again? In the kissing/hugging arena, do you back off and give them their space if they are obviously not enjoying being loved on?

You can respect even an infant's personal space and bodily integrity. You might want to consider reading up on Magda Gerber and the RIE method. I find that ideology a little extreme for everyday life, but their ideas might clue you in a bit.

MissMannah said...

Caroline, I am really sorry that happened to you. You're right, there's no sure fire way to protect our children, but parents should try to do their best still.

Amy, diaper changes and baths are health issues. Kissing Grandpa is not. When the children are old enough to say they don't want to do something, they are also probably old enough to use the toilet and bathe themselves.

Enough already, I couldn't agree more! I always ask my charge "may I have a hug/kiss/cuddle/pick you up?" rather than just going in and doing it. She is old enough to respond now but when she was a baby, I would still ask so she would at least know what is coming.

ugh said...

Nobody claimed teaching a child that they can refuse to be touched would prevent sex abuse. Thats insane.

We're suggesting it's healthy to teach a child they don't have to be affectionate if they dont want to. And they dont.

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